#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Genre Joy and Peace in Literature Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Poetry Poetry Friday Reading Themes

[Poetry Friday] Losing One’s Talk And Finding Poetry

A Poem by Rita Joe with art by Pauline Young.

Myra here.

Thank you to Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children for hosting this week.


I Lost My Talk (Amazon | Book Depository)

Words by Rita Joe Illustrated by Pauline Young Published by Nimbus Publishing (2019)
ISBN: 1771088109 (ISBN13: 9781771088107) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This year, we are determined to go even deeper into diversity by surfacing #SurvivalStories2021 – see here for more information. It is part of our efforts to decolonize our bookshelves and to feature more narratives (and poetry) by indigenous, first nation peoples and people of colour. Hence, this powerful poem by Rita Joe illuminated by Pauline Young is perfect for our theme. It is also recognized as a poem of healing and reconciliation, which also fits our quarterly theme on Joymakers and Peacebuilders. Each line of the poem is represented by the powerful art of Pauline Young.

It also reminded me of how I was mandated to speak only English throughout my elementary and high school years in the Philippines. In fact, students would need to pay a fine if we were caught speaking in Tagalog.

Slightly similar to Rita Joe’s experience, I studied in a Catholic, all-girls school, ran by Augustinian Recollect nuns. Most of them are Filipinos, a few are mixed race. However, it was my parents’ choice to send me to this private school – as opposed to Rita Joe’s being forcefully sent to a residential school when she was growing up – with indigenous young children snatched from their communities to “take the Indian out of the child.” As found in the “short history of residential schools” at the end of the book:

The Canadian government imposed its Indian Residential Schools program on Indigenous peoples for over one hundred years. It began in the 1870s and ended in 1996, when the final school, in Saskatchewan, was shut down.

In such few words, Rita Joe conveyed dispossession, the ripping out of voice from one’s throat, and the graciousness of finding space in one’s heart to make room for another language while keeping one’s own.

Here is the full poem:

I found the full story behind this poem on Youtube – I hope that you watch it all the way through:


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 5 out of target 100

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “[Poetry Friday] Losing One’s Talk And Finding Poetry

  1. Myra, thank you for sharing this poignant, moving poem – and for profiling such important stories. I look forward to learning through you throughout 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kay Mcgriff

    Thank you for sharing this poem. I look forward to learning more through the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, this is so beautiful and powerful! Thanks for sharing it– and your own personal responses, as well. I really appreciate your focus on diversity and lifting up the voices of poets of color. I strive to do the same and appreciate all the help I can get. Keep on!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so moving! Thank you for sharing the poem and the video. The music was just right for the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hate the idea of keeping kids from speaking their language. Thanks for sharing this. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: [Poetry Friday] Finding One’s Talk Through Poetry – Gathering Books

  7. Appreciations for this post with resources & the companion one. Important. Potent.

    Liked by 1 person

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